Still hot in Birdland, but I got up early to take advantage of the cool morning.

My friend, Brian, gave me some tomato plants. He warned me they would be leggy, and they were. I had been working on a Hugelkultur mound. I spread out some cardboard on the grass and piled some wood on top. We lost an elm tree many years ago, and the stump was still slowly rotting. It came apart as I tried to roll it over to my cardboard, but eventually I got all of it there.

It’s better if the wood is beginning to rot, but any wood will do, because it will rot eventually. I piled in some sticks too, that had been blown out of the trees. On top of that I had spread some old hay. My mound was just waiting to be covered with compost, and that was my task this morning.

I went out before seven and it was about 77 and overcast. A breeze made it feel much cooler, though, or maybe it was just not seeing the sun. I opened the third bin of my three-bin composter and raked the rich, brown soil into my barrow. Back and forth, back and forth, I went until I had completely covered the mound. But by then the sun was higher and the clouds had burned off.

I came inside for breakfast and decided to plant my tomatoes tonight.

Still, in my mind I went over how I would plant them. They are really more like vines than plants, all about three feet long, on stringy stems that couldn’t support themselves. Brian plants a huge garden every year and had already filled his tomato bed. These were malingering in the house under his grow lights.

He didn’t know what variety these were except for one. It was in a larger pot and did have a sturdy, upright posture, a Bumble Bee Cherry tomato, which has yellow stripes. I’ll put that one in my horse trough victory garden. The rest, I will lay across my new Hugelkultur bed and trim away all the branches except for the topmost ones. Then I’ll bury those long, long stems.

My Aunt Jane taught me to plant tomatoes sideways with just the tops sticking out. The stems will grow roots, and the more roots will provide a sturdier structure.

Just think how many roots will be nurturing these tomato plants in a lush bed of compost!

We just got back from a quick jaunt to Lake Erie. It was a bit of a scouting trip. We went to see a man about a boat. The boat is in a nice, no-frills marina. For the past ten years or so, we’ve taken a weekend to sail on Lake Michigan or Superior. It’s expensive, but my husband deems it worth the money, and I go along for the ride. Michael grew up sailing, but I’m a still getting my sea legs.

We’ve never sailed on Lake Erie, but let’s hope we like it because now we’re committed. When I told my Uncle David that we were thinking of buying a boat, he told me this old chestnut: The happiest day of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy the boat. Until they sell the boat, and then that is the happiest day of their life. I replied with my own joke: You know what a boat is, don’t you? It’s a hole in the water you pour money into. We had visited this boat in early spring when it was up on stilts.

Now we were going to test drive it in the water. But to be honest, I think I was already sold when I saw all the cranes, pelicans, loons, and mallards. We spent one night on the boat tied to the dock, but we’ll go take it out again as soon as the paperwork goes through. But for now, it’s enough to just sit in our gently rocking boat, organizing all the cubbies and little spaces. We sat on the deck and made plans for the next weekend, when we would bring the dogs.

We’ve already been buying essentials for them, a ramp (which, to be honest, was a good idea since they can’t hop into the car anymore), a no spill water dish, some life jackets. We’ll spend another weekend just gently rocking by the dock with the dogs to let them get their sea legs before we sail off into the sunset.

Sail in Beauty; Navigate Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays teaches writing at UIUC and Zhejiang University in Haining, China. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856.

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